The Mru: A hidden Tribe of Bangladesh.

I have spent weeks in the Bandarban district, one of the three tribal populated Chittagong Hill Tract districts, in southeastern Bangladesh. I went to meet the largest hidden Mru tribe and to also visit the most remote indigenous group of Murongs, the fourth largest hidden tribe in the area.

Their smiling and welcoming faces as well as the extraordinary hospitality of my friend’s family with whom I was living, made an ever-lasting impression upon me about this hidden tribe.

I learned from the tribe, how someone could live life and still enjoy every second of it despite the seemingly unsurmountable limitations. Without a doubt, the Mru are a very distinctive and unique people and when I took the time to get to know them and to document them, I found an exceptionally rewarding experience for myself.

I have always found that it is the people who make a place come alive and provide new completely different and unimaginable experiences for the visitor who is fortunate enough to meet them. I felt like an honored guest of these exceptional people and I would like to pay a tribute here of some of the people I encountered by sharing their unconventional lives and photographs with you.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The solitary, independent and peace-loving Mru people have lived in the Hill Tract of southeastern Bangladesh and western Burma for centuries – their small population being split almost in half by the border. Many scholars believe them to be the original inhabitants of the region. Mru prefer to live on the remote hilltops; even away from other hill tribes. Their villages are easily distinguished by sacred bamboo totems, presided over by guardian spirits.

Mro (Mru) villagers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mru people are also known as the as Mro or Murong. The Mru people introduce themselves as Mro-cha. The word ‘Mro’ means ‘man’ and ‘cha’ stands for ‘being’.

They have Mongoloid features but are tall and strong with dark complexions. They are peaceful and timid. Physically, they closely resemble the Semang of Malaysia.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

Mru are very egalitarian and have no castes and few hereditary positions. They are extremely non-confrontational and take pride in being patient and peaceful. Each household has an equal voice in all village affairs. They are one of the few indigenous peoples who have staunchly retained their own unique culture, rituals and beliefs. With no functional leadership or hierarchies, this lack of higher-level social organization makes it difficult from them to avail of, or cooperate in joint efforts for ‘development’ or cultural preservation. Thus, they are one of the least ‘modern’ of all the hill tribes, consciously preserving their distinct lifestyle. Mru are especially known for their mystical music, ascetic dress, exotic appearance and long, flower-adorned hair kept in topknots. Curiously, mru have no sense of being ‘tribal’ as do other indigenous peoples. They consider themselves just ordinary floks. Mru value their independence above all else, just desiring to pursue a traditional lifestyle free from domination or exploitation.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mru are a very poor people. Although they inhabit a region that is rich in lumber and hydroelectric potential, the villagers lack the technology and knowledge to improve their economic conditions.

But the Mru excuse their poverty because they believe that Torai (the god) intended them to live this way. At the same time, they pride themselves in their self-sufficiency.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

The Mro society is patriarchal. Although the father is the head of the family, women play a dominant role in social life. They depend mainly on hunting but many of them are engaged in Jhum cultivation.

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In addition to farming, many of the Mru men are skilled in producing bamboo items. Mru women are especially fond of wearing jewelry and other ornaments made by local craftsmen. Most Murongs are Buddhists although some are Christian converts.

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©GMB Akash/www.gmb-akash.com

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‘Mothers: Angels on Earth’

“God can’t be everywhere and therefore, he created Mothers! ” _ Rudyard Kipling

Mothers are God’s angels on earth whose prayers always follow us wherever we are! They are the guardian angels for us, in whose arms we feel the safest. Mothers are the only ones whose smell we can never forget. On their faces we find the warmest smiles that can wash away thousands of sorrows for us. In our mothers’ hearts we never grow up and we never grow old!

No words can define those precious women, our mothers, who give us all the love that anyone could possibly give and they give it unconditionally.

To honour all these ‘angels’ of our lives, I have gathered stories for my blog post which I am dedicating to all mothers on this Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to my treasured angelic friends.

I am sharing with you few heart-warming real-life stories of mothers, Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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No one thought my daughter could survive. I conceived after ten years of our marriage. When my daughter was born three months earlier than my delivery date, she was very premature. Everyone wanted to take her from me in the village. They told me that I should not get attached to my baby. They warned me that it will cause me severe heartbreak. I screamed at my people and my husband asked them to leave us alone. He told me that he would take us anywhere to save our child. I know from my heart that I could never lose her. No one knew that I got her in my dream; she was inside of me many years ago even before she existed. She was not new to me. I saw her face and felt I knew my child; there can be no other face but her’s. We arrived in the city. For six months my husband and I did not sleep. We did not close our eyes. My daughter was not able to breathe properly and I kept her in my lap all night long. My husband sold his rickshaw for us. Whenever her condition got worse, I held my baby to my chest and whispered in her ears not to leave me. I told her how many years I waited for her. I told her how much we loved her, how much we needed her in our lives. My husband was always silent. But he looked at her wide face and called her Moon. I told him it’s a girl so it’s better to call her Moonlight. And our love survived. Now my daughter is five years old. I can remember how I prayed to God to let my child stay with me and to take away everything else I had. I have got my daughter; her smile is enough to keep my world alive.

_Asma with her daughter Chadni (5)

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Appreciate the food your mother cooks for you. Some don’t have food, others don’t have mothers.

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Worrying is a waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your peace and distract from your focus.The day I adopted a five-year-old Hindu orphan boy, I was very worried. Everyone yelled at me. My husband wanted to leave me! But you know what, after 30 years of that day my husband died taking my Hindu boys’ hand on his chest. Because of my Hindu boy I have never had to be worried again about anything in my life. My boy builds a Madrasah for orphan children. There are 15-20 children living and getting education from the Madrasah there. Though I have four more children people call me Krishna’s Mother. I feel proud and respected.
After growing up, Krishna always took care of us. So much so that our own children did not even have to take care for us although they were loved by us and they loved us also. Krishna used to take care of his father when he was sick in bed! He used to tell me every day, “My mother and father are my heaven. In my next life, I only want to be your son!”
I have learned, life is like a pottery bank, you get everything back what you’ve put in. I loved him and got his love back for my whole my life. I am a happy person. During my whole life according to my ability, I wanted to do good for people. And I believe, doing good for people and knowing you are doing good makes a fine pillow for your old age.

_Julekha Begum

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“A mother is the only person on Earth who loves you more than she loves herself.”

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A mother’s love for her child never ends. After my husband’s death, my son was the only umbrella over my head. He was everything to me; my son, my friend, my caregiver, everything.

Last year he died on my lap. No one will understand the pain of seeing the lifeless face of their own child. I pray to God no mother shall have to bury their children before them. It’s been almost one year.

Everyone said, “Give it time. Time heals all wounds.” But It doesn’t heal the wounds of losing your child! Though you know they are in Heaven, the pain itself feels like Hell.

I love to eat sweets. Every day he used to say, “Maa let’s go to my shop and eat sweets”. He used to bring me to his sweet shop while holding my hands in order to feed me sweets. But I know he really brought me here in order to protect me from loneliness. I used to sit in his shop with him. People used to laugh but he never cared.

My son died in his sixtieth last year. Now, during the whole day I roam around his sweet shop. I know I will never see my son again. Even though I can’t walk properly, I can’t stop myself from coming here every day to retain his memory.Sometimes I sit the entire day in front of his shop.

My eyes always search for him. After his birth, all my life I never felt alone nor neglected for a second ever again. Now I am so scared of my future without him. My heart longs for his care, for his company, to be around him for my safety and to not feel lonely. After his death, I never felt alive again. A part of my life went with him. I search for him on everyone I see around me. The death of a child is like losing your breath and never catching it again.

_Milon Mala

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“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.”

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‘I lost many things in my life and by standing at the end of my life, now I can tell you, how I gained everything what I had lost.

My husband died when during flood, a tree had fallen on him. I was standing just ten feet away from him in water. That night, I was seven months pregnant. After losing my husband, my house and everything I had, I felt to commit suicide. But I became mother after waiting for twelve years for a child. I had to survive for my child, so I came to city to search for work. After so many struggles I gave birth to my son, midwife told me, my son had problem and asked me to be prepared for his death. When he died after seven days, I had no one beside me and had no money. Even if you die you need money but no one came forward to help me. Only some orphan-street children gave me money, so I could do his last work. After buried him when I return to my hut, I didn’t cry. From that day, I no longer look behind what I had lost. Since the day, for thirty years, I had feed one orphan each day from my food. I lost my child but I kept giving the portion of his love to every miserable child I met on my way.

Last five years, I am suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems. Now all those orphan children grew up and taking care of me. I lost one child but now I have hundred’

_Maa Asha

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“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” – Mitch Albom

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My son’s marriage is going to held next week. He bought gold ornaments for his new bride. But last night he very much surprised me by showing me the new gold jewelry set he bought for me! This is the happiest day in my life. I had to sell all my jewelry to survive with my 5 children for years after the death of my husband.

I had to sell my bangles that I started using after my marriage as well as my earrings that I got from my father and even the nose pin that carries the symbols of my husband.

Life was very hard for years after years. I started to battle for my 5 children. The battle was all about having some food to feed them. I worked at some people’s house as a maid. They used to give me a half kg of rice after a whole day work and after coming back home I used to cook this rice. Sitting around on the floor I used to feed them from one bowl with my own hand so that I could feed them equally.

We used to live in a room made of cane and it was badly broken-down. I had to spend night after night not sleeping to protect my girls from evil people.

I could not send my daughters to school! When feeding 5 children everyday was already the biggest challenge, how could I send them to school? Even I could not provide any clothes for my 4 daughters. They used to wear used clothes given by the family I was working for. They could not go to school wearing old ragged cloths. In very difficult circumstances I managed to marry off all my daughters. Every day my life was a struggle to find the necessities of survival. I continued to struggle without any hope of light.

But I never could stop the education of my son. He was very interested in his studies. He continued his school wearing my blouse and even his elder sister’s pajamas.

Only his invincible desire for changing our fate and becoming educated changed our lives from night to day. For the last 10 years after finishing his education he has been working abroad. There was a time when I did not have even 10 taka cash in my hands. Now I count thousands of taka every month.

One day when my son was young, I gave him some cold rice with Salt before his school and he asked me, “Don’t we have anything else?” I replied, “Grow up and buy a fridge for me so that I can keep everything you want in it!” With his first salary, my son bought me a fridge. Furthermore, he brought electricity into our home. Never in my wildest dreams did I think of enjoying the delight of electric light in our house. He even bought a colour TV which makes me feel very shy when I watch it.

In my life after struggling so much, I learned one thing: just working hard or getting an education is not enough. One has to carry the invincible desire to change the lives of their loved ones.

_Koyer jaan

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Who needs superheroes when I have my mother?

Women in Bangladesh

“Sometimes the strongest women are the ones who love beyond all faults, who cry behind closed doors, and who fight battles that nobody knows about. This blog post is dedicated to honouring women who are living at the edge of the society and who continue their fighting to earn food and dignity but who rarely ever come into the world’s limelight. Even the society in which they are living has never appreciated their bravery. I have met with many of them, discovering up close how women have worked for the greater good and have brought about change in their families and society. This is a way to pay tribute to a mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend and the many roles a woman plays in her life. These personalities have taught me that nothing can kill the spirit of a woman and that is what makes her so incredibly beautiful” – GMB Akash

“It’s hard to be a woman. You must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl, and work like a horse.”

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“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.” – Marge Percy

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“Don’t be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.” – Jenette Stanley

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“You have what it takes to be victorious, independent, fearless woman.” -Tyra Banks

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“Never apologize for being a powerful woman.”

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“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.”     

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“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”

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“When a woman rises up in glory, her energy is magnetic and her sense of possibility contagious.” -Marianne Williamson

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“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”

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“Women today are their own heroes. The power to change their lives lies within them.”

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“I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.”

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However well accomplished a woman may be, she tends to take on guilt and responsibility more easily than a man. Oftentimes, she is conditioned to believe that everyone and everything is her responsibility. Sometimes, she forgets that she has a responsibility towards herself. Accept and love yourself because there is just one YOU!

Climate Migration in Bangladesh

Two global agreements – one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration – are in the final stages of negotiation between different governments, under the auspices of the United Nations.  Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today – climate change.

While the UN recognises that climate change is a cause for migration, countries are under no legal obligation to protect the rights of those affected by its consequences.

Through the following stories and photos, we are taken into the lives of mainly Bangladeshi women who are survivors of climate-induced migration. It is the ultimate display of human resistance.

Over the next few decades, scientists expect 17 percent of the country’s land to be submerged, and 18 million Bangladeshis to be displaced by seas. The country regularly suffers from deadly and devastating flooding, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts.

When a land that has been a people’s home for centuries disappears or becomes uninhabitable, through no fault of those who live there, what choices do they have and where can they go? These are questions that the international community currently have no answers for—and that’s neither fair nor just.

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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I have always known that ‘water is life’ but this water has been killing us for the last 10 years. This water never gives us any peace. I am from a coastal village. We moved here because of yearly river erosion. If there is a fire in your house, only the house gets burned; the land remains.  But when there is river erosion, everything is lost. We lost everything  six times while living in my father-in-law’s house after our marriage . We have nothing left now. We came here and started life with only a few clothes and took out a 2000 taka loan from my sister-in-law.

Life is very hard here and our poverty is only increasing. We are waterlogged for almost the entire year.  We have thousands of problems here. Which one should I tell you about and which one should I skip? Everyone here is becoming a beggar and only buys medicine for waterborne diseases for their family members. We have to spend more than we earn every day. Every night this slum becomes like a howling Hell.  All the children start crying when they go to sleep because of the pain of their infected feet caused by walking the whole day in this muddy water.  We elderly people can tolerate most pain but the innocent children don’t understand that they are poor and should not cry about pain.

 I came here with only one child and now I have 4 children. My husband is the only worker in our family. I can’t go to work leaving my children here in this unsafe slum.  I have three daughters and almost every day in our slum, girls are getting raped.

For those with only one income earner, it’s very difficult for them to maintain a family and feed six mouths daily. Life becomes painful. It’s as if we are gasping for our last breath every day.  In our village life was so beautiful like in dreams. My children have never seen a village in their entire lives. I sometimes tell them stories of my childhood and our village. They listen to me as if I am telling them fairy tales. They want to go there to visit. But there is nothing left in our village anymore except the name. Now everything is under water. I heard most of my village people moved to Dhaka already. We all know there are two things in this world, ‘Heaven and Hell’. When I was at home in my village with my neighbors and everyone else, I used to feel like I was living in Heaven. Now it feels like we are living in Hell. We have cried so much already, but you know there is no end to our crying.

_Ruby Begum

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After the flood, I lost my house for the sixth time because the river eroded. I sold my cattle and everything I had in order to rebuild my shelter last year. This year there was another devastating flood which destroyed my house again, and now staying here is another nightmare. I have no idea how I will manage to pay back all my loans while spending nights in this smashed-up house with my children.  We have been starving most of this last week. We have nowhere to go, no way to cook and most importantly nothing to cook. We live on the bank of the river in the northern part of our country. Now floods come two or three times a year and in addition, the extra water from India also comes when we don’t need it. We live in the flatlands so even in heavy rainfall this area becomes flooded. We can’t grow crops because this kind of sudden flood destroys everything throughout the year. Before the end of one year of trouble, the second year of floods begin to make us suffer again.

I never had any happy childhood moments. From the beginning of my life I have been facing extreme hunger and a washed-up future. At the age of six for the first time, I had to rebuild our destroyed house those nights; when the river took every dream we had. I was never a child again.

Two of my younger brothers died after that incident from diarrhea. There was no treatment. We could not afford to go to hospital. I have seen many deaths and diseases. Some were silent, some were miserable and some were deadly. But nothing is worse than hunger. You can fight disease but you can’t fight hunger.

I am looking forward to joining my husband in Dhaka City.  He tried for several years to make me understand that I had to leave this land and work together with him for a better future for our children. But I never listened to him as I never wanted to leave. But this time I have prepared myself to be strong. I love my land but it can’t meet the needs of my children’s hunger. My land can’t give me a respectful life. This land only can give me heartache every year with its cruelty.

I hope our endless sorrow will end one day. Hundreds of women are leaving here and going to Dhaka. I also want to get out of this open prison, this world of water where I was born, as soon as possible. I want to give my children a better life and I want them to be able to have a childhood. I don’t want them to rebuild their destroyed house again and again with a broken heart. I want them to carry their school bags every day with hearts full of hope.

home with my parents when the flood hit us. Then the river took our land. I grew up during

_ Ashma Begum

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My wife is probably not going to live much longer and I am a helpless man and unable to do anything for her. I had to leave the woman with whom I have been living for 50 years alone in that dead drought place. I came here to earn money so that I can send some money to feed her and buy her medicine. I was a farmer with land. We used to have happy and beautiful days before the drought. But now because of the drought nothing grows in our field. The drought killed everything; it killed our happiness and now it is going to kill my wife.

I have been working here for the last 2 years. I never rode a rickshaw before. When I ride this rickshaw everyday it’s very difficult and scary. But I am doing this for my Buri. She is waiting every day for me to come to her so that she can die in front of me. She is very sick and suffering from malnutrition. I don’t earn enough so it’s very difficult for me to bring her here or give her enough money for good food or medicine. She can’t even drink enough water. Where will she find fresh drinking water? She needs to walk for miles to collect drinking water. She can’t walk enough to collect drinking water every day. She lives alone in a drought-prone area on my land. All my family members including my son and daughters have moved from there to Dhaka. But no one took her with them.

We became our children’s burden. My Buri became their burden. Now no one is with her to take care of her or give her a drop of water in her mouth if she starts to die. I can’t even work properly thinking of her. I am so anguished thinking about her and I always feel worried that I might not see her again. I can’t breathe normally when I think of her condition.

I am trying with every single drop of my blood to accumulate enough money to bring her here with me so that she may die in front of me.

_ Rohomot Ali

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Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. I am Bilkis and come from a slum in Dhaka city. I used to work in a factory with my husband. I fell in love with him and I fled here with him eight years ago. For the last eight years I have seen a very different world, full of the hardships of the people on this island. Many times my husband told me he wanted me to return to the city again. But I could not leave this land and these innocent people living in this situation. For the last seven years I have been working to bring changes to their lives, a little at a time.

Every year unseasonal flash flooding and extreme river erosion make people’s lives in North Bengal impossibly miserable. Countless people lose their children and their cattle every year. People of this land live a life of uncertainty. The severity of this is increasing every year. Hundreds of people have had to leave here because they lost their houses, their land and their hope of living without a hungry stomach.

I am the only educated woman on this island.  I wanted to guide the people but rather than cooperating with me, they always wanted to create obstacles because I am an outsider. But I never lost  hope. My husband is always with me. He never interrupts my work and always supports me. He knows that I want to help these innocent villagers deal with nature’s cruelty. Seven years ago,  when I was discussing my dreams with him, my husband said “to help these poor people you need to know about the floods and the current situation. Why don’t you buy a radio?” He sold our only cow to buy the radio. And that one radio changed the situation on our island.

I used to listen to all the news regularly, mainly in the rainy season to stay informed about the flood water so I could warn my neighbors to take shelter in the highlands and save lives. The first year no one wanted to listen to me about the arriving flood waters except two families and that was the biggest out of season flood in the last 10 years. Hundreds of people became poor and had to beg. Many people lost their children and cows. It was a disaster. In the last six years I have had to move our house three times but no one from my island has lost their lives.

Women from this island never wanted to leave here and work in the city, because they believed that working alongside men was a sin. I made them understand that women can work alongside men to survive and to end their hunger. Upon understanding this, hundreds of women from this island moved to Dhaka; to Amin Bazar.

Now everyone from my island, older or younger, admires me and listens to my words. All hard and positive work pays off. I have been providing education to 10-15 girls in my yard for the last five years and gave my radio to them. Together, we made some high land on our island. Now I am prepared to leave this island with my husband and move to Dhaka city because I know now that lots of Bilkis are ready to take the responsibilities of their own land and people.

_ Bilkis Begum

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She doesn’t go to school anymore. For us, collecting water is more important than going to school now. We old people used to go to school but this new generation is becoming uneducated. But you know; education only helps when you don’t have to suffer for basic needs like food and water. Now staying alive every day is the biggest fight in our lives.

Every day here in this coastal area we have to face different problems. But the biggest problem is the lack of life saving fresh water. Water is life and we have an abundance of water everywhere, but for a bucket of drinking water we have to travel miles and miles or cross this river. We don’t get adequate sweet water for drinking or to use for ourselves. Our kids are wasting all their time collecting water for their families. We cannot remember the last time we took a shower in fresh water. Fresh water is now the priceless treasure in our lives. I passed my SSC education, but my children are illiterate. Like mine all the children of our villagers are becoming illiterate only because they waste their time collecting water. School will not save their lives when they need drinking water to quench their thirst and that of their families.

We are going to collect water. It takes a lot of time to reach the pond from where we collect water and then we have to line up for taking water from the pond which takes a lot more time and then return home. The pond is also getting drier day after day. Sometimes the owner of the pond doesn’t allow us to take water from there. We have another water source on our island which is a 12-mile walk. Our children are becoming sick and exhausted from collecting water every day from different places.

Only during monsoons can we collect water easily from the roof of our house with thin plastic sheets. But monsoon season is also our biggest fear. Our house is just on the edge of the dam and every night we go to sleep afraid that it could disappear with a surge of water at anytime.

We used to fish in fresh-water and earn enough to feed our family, but now there is nothing except salt water. It comes inland up our rivers where it stagnates. We can’t earn enough money as there are no jobs. Salt water has devoured our place such that we can’t grow anything on our land. We can’t even raise cattle because they too need fresh water to drink. Our income source is low considering the situation of price hikes. I cannot buy any vegetables or meat for my 75-year-old mother or my children. We are becoming the workless and the poor as well as beggars.  Our daily lives became a deserted life after the cyclone. Life seems so helpless here. Thousands of people are leaving this island because of these problems. But I can’t leave my elderly mother and she doesn’t want to leave this land. She would die starving and thirsty here but still she will not leave this land.

_ Hamida Begum

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My children ask me all the time why we have to move from one island to another. I have no answer.  I also ask Allah the same question every day. My home has been taken by the river six times. A few days ago, we moved to this island and made our seventh home. On this remote island my husband can only go fishing. Last night my five hungry children were freezing in the cold. To fight the chilly wind we embraced each other and their father kept reciting the Quran. If my husband can catch a fish, we can survive another day.

We fear the future and fight for today. As we are poor we don’t know what we will eat the next day. We had some land from where we used to get some paddy every year. But this year it is now in the middle of the river. We have no hope for paddy or rice this year. Only by the grace of Allah do we not have the problem of drinking water. For many days we have been only drinking water from the river to survive.

The river took everything from us; now we have nothing left. How can I make you understand how we are living our unbearable lives every day? I was once so fond of my village from my childhood, but this cursed land and cruel river is killing me and my family every day. I don’t want to live on this land anymore; not for a single day. But I have nowhere to go; I have not a single penny to move from this cursed land. On this island only two families live with us and they are also surviving like we are surviving; fighting all odds against us.

There is not a single person to help me. I wanted a loan from one of my brothers who lives outside of this town who came to visit us last year. But he refused to help; saying he is also having a lot of problems and he didn’t believe that I could refund his loan! He asked me, “How will you refund my money?” I could not answer his question!

No one believes in poor people, not even a brother from the same mother.

I feel hopeless as Hell nowadays. I have never gone anywhere away from this land and don’t know what I could do to survive with my whole family. I am in the middle of nowhere and finding no way to get out of this problem.

When my children get sick sometimes, except for crying and asking help from God, I can’t do anything for them. I don’t know how many days we can live here like this? How many days we can live hungry and fight this hostile nature and weather. I don’t know how our miserable days will end or if they will ever end or not!

_ Khodeja

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How can I possibly make you understand what a big sin I have committed? I don’t know if Allah will forgive me or not but I am sure my child will not forgive me. My family members will not forgive me as I can’t forgive myself. I had to sell my 6-year-old son to a man in order to survive with my other two children and my husband. To save 4 more lives, I had to make the most devastating decision of my life. We had one little piece of land to cultivate that we had to sell 4 years back for very little money. After cyclone Aila, nothing grows on our land anymore so no one wanted to buy it for a fair price. My husband and I, are both used to cultivating fish in our own fishery. That was the only work and income source for us.

But after cyclone Aila, there was no sweet water anywhere anymore. We couldn’t cultivate fish nor grow crops on our only field. Aila took everything from us: our house in the tsunami water, our land, our fisheries, the food from our mouths and even our elder son. This is why we had to sell our son to feed the other four mouths. How many days could we live without food? Day after day we all had to starve. I was pregnant. I remember getting faint after several days of hunger. I don’t know where my son is now! I don’t know what they have done with that piece of my heart. I don’t know if I will ever meet him again or not! When I think of him, I become like an insane woman. Sometimes I feel like killing myself because I feel so guilty. But no one would ever understand the anguish of it if they do not go through having an empty pocket and a hungry stomach. With the money we saved, we managed to move to Dhaka last year. Now I work as a housemaid and my husband works as a porter at Shadarghat. Now we don’t have to starve anymore day after day but we can’t ever sleep happily anymore. Every day before we sleep we regret our loss. We think about our son. My husband cries loudly holding me and my two children. Almost every day we fight and cry before sleeping. My oldest daughter always asks me where her brother has gone. I can’t reply to anyone; instead I try to turn myself into stone again in order to go to work the next day.

_ Hasina Begum

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I poured my sweat and blood into building my house. I did it with my own hands. My wife and I worked hard every day so that we could make a home where we dreamed we could see out our days. Our children grew up there just like in our dreams. After so many happy years, one day like a nightmare, the river Jamuna took away our house. We never thought the river could come that close. Now I have only memories and nowhere to live. Isn’t life the most unpredictable thing?

 Everything happened in front of my eyes. We could not save anything except our lives. My wife’s wedding sari, my cherished radio and years of treasured belongings all went into the river. I was stunned that night when the calamity hit us.

That house was everything to me. I was a simple farmer; my life and heart were rooted in that land. But now it is all in the river. Now I have nothing except a plastic shed where seven of us have been trying to make do for the last couple of months. Now even drinking water is a problem because my water tube wall which cost one year of income from my crops, is also gone into the river. Now we drink the river water. We don’t have a kitchen nor a toilet. We cook under the open sky.

It will cost more than two or three hundred thousand taka to build a new home. When I can’t even collect food for my  family to eat, this much money is now a dream. In order for all of us to eat, my children had to stop going to school and have started working as maids in a villager’s house with their mother.

Though I know I will not get to return to my house, every day I come to the riverbank and try to mark the spot where my lost home might be now.

No one is coming to help people like us. It is getting worse every year. It’s a kind of war which has no value for anyone else other than the people who are fighting it and suffering every day for the rest of their lives.

_Shaha Ali

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I was a hawker of girls’ cosmetics in our village and married a beautiful happy girl who I fell in love with the first day I saw her. Twenty years before we were married she used to be one of my regular customers. She fell in love with me unconditionally and married me after dealing with a lot of problems with her family.

I am a poor hawker man, who loves his wife and daughter with his full heart, but as people say, this doesn’t fill your stomach. It is very hard for me to see innumerable pins on my daughter’s slippers and holes upon holes in my wife’s sari. I feel hopeless and a failure when I can’t feed them three times a day, when I can’t manage school fees for my daughter and when I can’t buy new clothes for my family for the Eid festival. I couldn’t do anything for my family. But they never complained about anything because poor people get used to it; they know that no one can cope with the power of nature.

For the last six months we have been really worried about what will happen if we will lose our house and land again. Where we will live? How we will continue to survive? We already lost everything four times in the river due to river erosion. We continued to buy land beside the river because it is cheaper.

This last time I intentionally collected more money to buy land in order to make our home away from the river and this village as we knew that the river would again sweep away everything we have and will again show her unkindness.

But nature is more clever than mankind and has bigger plans than we poor people. Last week she took everything we had away again. This time it was so rapid and so much crueler than before that I could not save anything. I could not even grab the money I was saving for my girl’s marriage, nor the money for buying the land on which we were planning to build our home.  I could not save my hawkers box which I have been carrying with me for 25 years; nor could I save my only fulcrum tool. We lost our crops, our cattle… everything.

The night the flood hit one part of our village completely collapsed and was submerged in the river in front of our eyes . Before we understood what was happening, everything went under water. No one could save anything without losing their lives. We could just save our lives by running far away, holding hands with our family members.

I don’t know in what way I have sinned in order to deserve being punished like this year after year. I don’t know where I will go with my young girl after being released from here. For the last two weeks we have been living here because of my wife’s sickness. My wife’s condition is getting worse day by day. I am a beggar now. And as a beggar, I am begging to my god to please not take my wife away from me. I just don’t want to lose her too.

_ Khairul Mia

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We have been born with the fate of uncertainty. Every year that we are alive, we live with the power of our fate. As each year passes by and we count ourselves fortunate; we count each new breath as good luck. The year of Cyclone Aila in 2009 was the curse of my life. We lost the only tree over our head. I lost my husband in the cyclone. No one could find the body of my husband for us to see him for one last time. Can you imagine how unfortunate we have been?

For the last six years I have been fighting uncountable complications with my four daughters. People say daughters are blessings, but for me daughters are dangers no matter how beautiful and moderate they are. There is danger in everything and  it’s worse when you are poor and homeless. I had never thought it would be  such a challenge to marry my beautiful daughters. Whenever I used to worry about them my husband would say, “Why are you so tense? The boys will fly to take those angels away.” But like everything else the salty water stole my daughters’ beauty.

I came here from Shatkhira, Munshiganj with my two unmarried daughters two years ago. Who wants to leave their birthplace and come here? But I have been obliged for the sake of my daughters’ lives and futures. My daughters had to walk uncountable miles every day for drinking water.  If it’s so difficult to find enough drinking water just to survive, can you imagine how hard it has been to obtain fresh water for my girls to showers? So they have showered in the salt water, which is very bad for our skin. It itches. It was a nightmare when my girls got their periods. I couldn’t bear their crying every month. The land gave us nothing but dead hopes. We couldn’t grow crops because of the cursed salt water. We couldn’t provide drinking water for our cattle. With no source of income, we couldn’t live there. Must I remain because it is my homeland even when my homeland is not able to feed me?

I moved to this rice field two years ago with others from my village. I had to take an advance of 50 thousand taka from my manager. With that money I repaid the loan I had taken to feed my children throughout the years since cyclone Aila. It may take me one more year to repay the loan to my manager. Our work here is very hard but at least I can drink water whenever I feel thirsty and I can feed my children every day.  We don’t need to starve day after day. I don’t have to listen to my children crying for water and food.  Sometimes at night I remember tearfully the joy of earlier days. But I force myself to go to sleep, in order to be ready the next day for the reality of life.

_ Parvin Akter

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I never thought even in my worst dreams that I would have to leave my land and move to Dhaka – but this is what I am about to do. But what we want is never always that which happens. I don’t know how I will live there in one restricted tiny room after living in my open-spaced village here. How will I breathe in that blocked room? But it is also not possible to live here in my village anymore.

My grandson Motaleb came from Dhaka last night to take me with him from this cursed village where I have been almost dying for the last 10 years. But I didn’t want to go to Dhaka or leave this place. My seven sons moved from our village after the severe cyclone to search for work and for living. We had a house of eight rooms. We were not a poor family but now you can call us beggars. We have nothing left after that extreme cyclone. That cyclone took thousands of people’s houses and lives. Everyone moved to different places from here.  Overnight middle-class families became beggars.

Luckily one of my sons saw a tide 8-10 feet high breaking a dam and coming right towards our house . He cried out, “We will die if we do not leave this place. Let’s leave the place”. We couldn’t take anything with us. We were holding trees with one hand and with their other hand my two sons helped me and saved my life. I saw everything was floating; cows, goats, ducks, chickens, trees, even people. Everything was floating away in front of me.  I can never forget this memory.

We are from the coastal area so I have seen a lot of cyclones during my lifetime of 70 years, but I never felt that worried. However, this time people were very worried. I have never seen this kind of destructive cyclone before. Usually water would come and go and we would mend the damage every year. But Cyclone Aila took everything from us. It is not possible for us to be like we were before.

My sons  tried to make me understand that nothing was left here for me to be able to live here alone. But I never accepted their impassioned insistence and I did not want to leave my homeland where I have been living my whole life. However, it is now impossible for me to live here alone with a lack of available food and sweet water. Drought, frequent floods and storms as well as the barbaric torture of jungle animals have made my life Hell and have caused health problems for me. Last month I asked my elder son to take me with them. Today I am leaving my homeland forever at this old age taking every good and bad memory with me. I don’t know how many days I will live but I know even after my death I will not return to this land again.

_ Hamida Begum

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I have no one. I am alone in this world now. For the last 10 years I have been living alone only remembering that day. For my one and only wrong decision, I lost my whole family in the horrifying 15 November Cyclone Sidr. I don’t know what I should call it – good luck or bad luck.  I am the only one in my family to have survived by holding onto the last tree in our village! I can’t forget how the next morning I was searching for my loved ones and lining up the dead bodies one by one. I lost my two daughters, my only son and my husband that night. I can’t forget losing everything; all my cattle were floating away like water lilies in the cyclone water.  The water took away everything from me.

I am from Pathorghata Borguna. There, every year we faced big and small cyclones. But in 2010 even in my worst dreams I never thought this would happen. My daughters asked me while holding onto me tightly several times “Ma, it’s a number 10 warning signal and they are announcing it again and again. Ma, we are feeling really afraid. Let’s go to the cyclone center.” But I was a foolish woman. I did not listen to them.  I did not listen to my husband either because I thought nothing would happen. I was feeling very lethargic and did not want to take everything with us to the cyclone center.  I thought like the many storms before, that the cyclone would pass and nothing would happen. For my obstinate decision of that cursed night I had to bury them alone the next day. I had to take out a loan from my villagers to bury my family members because I lost everything in the cyclone. I have only the sari I was wearing that night. I starved under a tree for several miserable nights.

I could not bear it, but I had to come here to search food in order to stay alive with my other villagers. When you are alive, your stomach hurts for food. For the sake of this stomach I had to come here. But it’s a very difficult job that I have been doing for the last 10 years in order to survive. But now I know there is nothing too difficult for the poor.  When coming here I took a 20-thousand taka advance from the owners and I have been returning this money for the last ten years. We get a very little amount of money: only 60 taka for a long day’s work when we finish drying one field of rice. Sometimes when it’s the rainy season or the sun doesn’t show up, it takes three to four days to finish drying one field of rice for 60 taka. The owners take the loan money out plus interest.  They give us rice but we have to buy vegetables from our money so we have to take out more loans from the owners. I became their slave for 20 thousand taka and this is how my life will end: working here day after day.

_ Fatema Begum

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My entire life had been spent on an island on the Brahmaputra River. I had never seen any vehicles in my 35 years of life, except for boats, ox carts and horse carts. Like me hundreds of women from these islands had never seen any modern vehicles. The men of the islands went out for necessary things but women didn’t need to go anywhere. I, myself, never imagined a city life could look like this. Last year for the first time I left my land in search of making a living with my complete family and came to Dhaka. We took out a loan to move here in the hope that our family could at least eat three meals a day. We had to rebuild our home 5 times before we decided it was time to move. Before coming here, we were surviving by eating a blend of wheat powder with river water once a day. Sometimes we ate a mix of rice and eggplant. If my husband could catch a fish from the river, it was royal food for my family.

I was born on the island of Shakhahatichor in Chilmari district, 400 miles away from Dhaka. Chilmari district has 6 unions, or councils but 4 out of 6 are now in the middle of the river. Our island is one of them. Life is becoming more difficult every year for the people of the islands. People are dying from starvation there. Nothing grows on our islands because of draught. People have nothing to do; no jobs for surviving. There are no agricultural activities for farmers. In recent decades our area has been afflicted by severe droughts. There were not many problems in the previous years because there was adequate water in the Brahmaputra River. Now the water does not flow. The mighty Brahmaputra is the lifeline for our agricultural and our domestic lives, but it is dying every day and taking thousands of lives with it.

Thousands of islanders are facing a serious food crisis, natural disasters and temperature problems. Every year from mid-September through mid-November, this crisis is extreme. We call the period Mora Kartik, meaning the months of death and disaster. The last time we were there we couldn’t even stay in our hut because of the intolerable cold and wind. Now the season and weather have become unpredictable. Last winter my father died in his old age because he couldn’t tolerate the biting, painful cold any longer. My father used to say: “It’s so cold that tigers are shaking.” He is not the only one; lots of old people die every year from these conditions. During winter this place becomes unbearable yet during summer the heat feels like Hell.

Even though we were hungry on our island, we never wanted to move to Dhaka. But we had nothing left but our two hands. Without food or a  job, these hands are incapable of feeding our mouths. So, I listened to my husband and came to Dhaka for work. My husband is a day laborer and I work as a cook in a canteen where laborers eat every day. I have to work hard the whole day for 3000 taka and food for myself. Sometimes I can take some leftovers for my children. Life is very hard here too but at least we have opportunities for income. We can eat three times a day. My children don’t have to starve for food anymore. That is what I have wanted my whole life.

_ Morjina Begum

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When danger comes, it comes in every conceivable way. Who would have thought that we would have to work here in this dirty dump yard? Fate has dragged me here. I am from a respectable family. Women of our family never used to work outside of the home ever. Now I work here with my whole family.

After cyclone Sidr, we were trying to fix our house but another cyclone, Aila, took the rest of it. We lost everything to the rising tide.  We lost our home, crops and now we are losing our dignity by doing this work every day. Everything we had is under water now. Now, except these hands, we have nothing left and are like beggars.

My father-in-law could not tolerate our situation and died from the grief of losing his home, land and property. My husband left me with my two daughters without saying anything and married a woman for money. I know he is living with his new wife in a nearby slum. I never thought that he could do this to me and to our two beloved daughters. How could he leave us like this? Once upon a time I had a family and a home. My husband could not eat if I did not cook the food myself. Now I know everything was a dream and the biggest lie ever.

I came here after taking a loan from villagers and selling some of my jewelry which I had been wearing my whole life. I took my mother-in-law with us. She is all alone now. How could I leave her? I thought if we eat, she will eat with us. Now I have four mothers; my own mother, my mother-in-law and my two beloved daughters. We are all working here and living in a rented tin shed room. We are working hard and repaying the loan every month. My daughters can’t go to school anymore. How can they? After working here the whole day in this smelly rubbish, no one allows us to sit beside them. Getting water is very tough. The whole night we have to wait in the line to take a bath, but washing and smelling the soap feels heavenly.

I passed class eight but my daughters can’t even pass primary school. There is no end to our troubles. I can’t tolerate seeing two older women working so hard every day. I can’t bear to see my innocent, beloved daughters  working in this dump yard from morning till night just to survive. I feel so depressed and feel like giving up sometimes. It’s better to die than seeing this misery in our lives. People throw broken glass and blades in the garbage; they never think there are people like me who have to work here. Those of you who threw that broken glass in the garbage need to know it cuts our feet. But it’s okay; I am accustomed to such pain. I forgot the last time when I smiled but the tears never stop rolling down from my eyes. We sit here and have our lunch. The smell of rubbish is nothing to us anymore. Nowadays our lives have become more rotten than this rotten dump yard.

_ Nurjahan Begum

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We are the people from north Bengal who lived on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. Each year we were the first in the country to endure the flooding, before floods came to other parts of the country.

We had become accustomed to flooding because we had experienced it all our lives and fought against the odds every year. But in 2010 the flooding was so sudden that it left us with a new shoreline. We survived for four days on the top of that shore but the next day, it too was underwater. After searching madly for a whole day for banana trees, my husband finally found five trees to make a raft. We tied it to our hut so that it did not float away and we moved our essentials onto the raft.

I never imagined that on this night my life was going to change forever. After finishing our dinner, we were resting on our raft sitting and holding each other so that we didn’t fall into the water. After having done a lot of work looking for materials and building the raft, we were tired. We were resting and I was breastfeeding our one-and-a-half-year-old girl. The whole night I was very concerned and was breastfed her for a long while. At the end of the night when it was almost dawn and I heard the sound of the azaan call of prayer. Then I heard the sound of something falling into the water.  For just one second I had not thought about my child and the next second she was no longer there.  I cried out wildly and jumped into the water. My husband also jumped in. We searched for her frantically. We were dipping in the water and crying loudly at the same time.  My husband was diving and calling her name “my Moyna, my Moyna, O Allah, my mother!” The current was so strong that it was pulling me away. After a while I fainted at the thought that I had lost my treasure; a baby that had taken seven years to conceive.  After that accident I became mentally-ill for five years. I had to have treatment in a mental hospital from 2010 to 2015. My mental health improved when I fell pregnant for the second time, 6 years later. But after Arafat  was born, I became terrified that I would lose my child again in the water. After seeing my mental condition, my husband brought me here by selling everything we had.

There is nothing called poor persons ‘luck’ just as there is no guarantee of a poor person’s life. We came to this railway slum last year. Life became even more perilous here in the slum than in our flooded village. I can’t leave my son for a single second because  trains come and go every 10 minutes. There is nowhere to move to from here because this slum is the cheapest in the city.

With the money we have we cannot go to any other slum. My husband works alone for us as a rickshaw driver. I cannot go to work – who will guard my son?  It does not matter if I do or don’t eat, but I can’t bear losing my child, my heart again.  If you haven’t gone through this, you wouldn’t understand the horrific pain when one loses that part of your heart. Life is hard for poor people when even nature treats us so poorly. It is nature that plays the most devastating role with poor people like us.  If this were not true then the floods would not have been so cruel as to take so much from me.

_ Rita Begum

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We woke up in terror after the roof of our house was swept away, and moments later we were chest deep in rising waters. The water came in so quickly and it got so high that it almost reached the ceiling of our house. My parents jumped into the water to try to save the cattle but could not. We lost everything in the cyclone. We escaped with just our lives from there seven years ago.

There were between 100 and 150 families along the riverbank. All their homes were washed away just like ours. We lost everything. We lost our boats, our cattle, and our land was flooded with salt water. All the land is under water now. We had to move very quickly and we couldn’t take anything except the clothes we were wearing. We were left with nothing just like refugees. Today, boats pass over the place where our land was; where I spent all of my childhood like a dream.

I started my job as a sex worker seven years ago here in Dhaka City, when my mother committed suicide for the unbearable pain of our losses and my father fled leaving me to look after my four siblings. My little sisters and brothers don’t know what I do till midnight. Sometimes it’s very hard to explain to them why I can’t return at night to them. But this is the only job I could find that would allow me to feed my family. They wait the whole night for me so that I am there to hold them beside me while we all sleep. My only aim now is to feed my siblings and give them a better life. Seeing them going to school every day fills me with a lot of pride. I can take care of them till the evening, after that they take care of each other.

I have been pregnant several times and have had to have abortions. I always prayed to God, “Please don’t allow this pain to happen to even my worst enemy”.

_ Rubina

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We came to Dhaka from Gabura, Munshiganj, in the Sathkhira area two months ago and now we are living on the streets. There was nothing left in our area except hunger and uncertain livelihoods – we were surrounded by salty water and drought ravaged lands. In order to come here, I had to I had to sell my only pair of gold rings that I got from my mother-in-law which is a symbol prestige and value in our family. When our life is valueless, how is it possible to protect our values? I sold my prestige to feed my family.

I never thought my life would turn into Hell soon after that first cyclone. Hundreds of people left our villages after cyclone Aila due to lack of food, sweet water and a secure life. But we did not leave then. We did not want to leave our forefathers’ land, showing disrespect. But we had no choice. There was nothing left there. No opportunities for surviving. You could not even beg from anyone. Everybody became so poor, nobody had anything to give you.

We suffered terribly in winter and during the monsoon season in our broken hut in our village. My husband used to sell fish in the local market and somehow used to manage to get us one meal a day. When he would manage this one meal, my son used to burst into happiness and I would burst into tears, thankful that we were avoiding starvation. But there were many days when all my son wanted was some rice and I had none to give him.  In such unimaginable misery, our hungry stomachs pushed us to come here to search for work and survive.

My husband started riding a rickshaw a few days ago. It was very difficult to get the rickshaw for rent because owners won’t rent you one if they don’t know you. We knew no one in Dhaka. After several weeks, we got somebody from our area that helped us to rent the rickshaw from the garage. Before this, we begged on the street in order to survive with our children.

We are still living on the streets as we can’t afford to rent a room in a slum.  The rooms are more money than my husband can  earn in a day by riding the rickshaw. I know no work other than doing household chores. I am now searching for a job as a maid but like my husband, I need someone to help me.

_ Salina Begum

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Cry: Dalits in Bangladesh

Caste and occupation-based discrimination remains one of the most severe and forgotten human rights abuses of the twenty-first century. Many groups who face this type of discrimination are identified as untouchables and have taken on the identity of Dalits. Dalit” is a Bengali word which literally means “someone trampled under the feet of someone else”.

 It is used to identify an outcast minority of oppressed, exploited and deprived people. Dalits in Bangladesh face various forms of discrimination and challenges due to their social status. There are between 5.5 to 6.5 million unseen Dalits in Bangladesh.

 The majority of Dalits are usually very poor leading a hand to mouth kind of existence. As an excluded community, they continue to work in some of the most menial, low paid, and dangerous jobs in the country, such as cleaning toilets, sweeping streets, and emptying the septic tanks of others. Sometimes they face severe forms of human rights violations, including abduction, rape, torture, threats, intimidation, as well as the destruction of their houses and eviction from their land.

Despite all the difficulties in their lives, these marginalized people still dream of a better future. Perhaps they dream of a day when their children will not be judged based on their birth identity but on their qualities.

Every day we walk down the clean streets but we never look back and think about who keeps the streets and sewer systems clean. They are the most unseen people. No one listens to their silent cries. I always wanted to deliver their voices to all of you and show you their hidden pains, struggles and anguish.

To do that, I have been visiting Dalit communities all over Bangladesh for the last 4 years and collecting their stories. I have been documenting their everyday lives through my lens to shed light on the suffering of these marginalized people.

I am sharing now some of the real-life stories of these unseen people, whose lives continue with silent weeping…

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

iddis 80 , cleaner, from vola

I was not born cleaner. I was an innocent kid who would vomit in bad odor. No one from my family ever was a cleaner. But now I have spent seventy years of my life by cleaning filth and dirt of others. I started doing this work to save my family from starvation. The day I started working as cleaner my whole family’s identity was turned into one name ‘Cleaner’s family’. My mother was called cleaner’s mother. In these seventy years, no one ever told me that my work is important or I am important. I have noticed people do not look at me as a human, they do not do eye contact or come very close, and they do not let me to sit inside their house. For everyone I am just a sweaper or cleaner. No one ever asked me, how it feels to wake up in the morning and without having any breakfast just go inside the pile of filth or gutter.

When my mother was very sick, one day I burst out in tears to her and asked for her forgiveness. She asked me why I was asking her to forgive. I told her that because of me for decades she was addressed as a cleaner’s mother. I humiliated her because I was not able to become a mechanic or even a labourer. She touched my head and told me that I have already become someone that no one can become. She told me, only few people can clean other people’s dirt by becoming dirty and the incredible one can do that for family. She told me how proud she is because I gave her food that comes from pure honesty.

After my mother’s death, I continued to do the same work I was doing, cleaning filth. One day I found a gold chain and I quickly hid it before my coworkers saw it. When I was returning home I was clean and tidy but that chain was inside my pocket and I was feeling all over dirty. I could not eat that day and thought how that gold chain can change my destiny, my life. I planned to give it to my sister in her marriage, I planned to sell it and start a business, I planned everything I could plan in my wildest dream but I could not sleep peacefully for the first time in my life. After a few days I sold the chain and took the money. The money was with me for nearly a month. I could not sleep peacefully for a single night. The day before Eid festival I was sitting in the local shop of my slum. A boy arrived there and begged to the shopkeeper to give him some rice so his family could have something to eat during Eid day. The shopkeeper scolded him and he walked away. I was seeing him weeping and going to home.

At night I did bazaar for the poor families of my slum with the money I had. I spent every penny. Everyone was surprised and asked me what had happened. I did not lie to anyone but did not tell the truth too. When I went to sleep at night I was poor again, a poor cleaner on his mattress. But I was able to sleep that night and dreamed my mother for the first time after her death. I saw her very young, in a beautiful saree, She was smiling and proudly telling everyone. ‘I am the cleaner’s mother. My son can be dirty but no one’s heart is as clean as him’.

_Idris Ali (80)

Bhai street (47)

I found out my daughter had an affair with a boy for five years. She never spoke about it as she is always afraid of me. Apart from that, I assumed my children always hated me for the job I have been doing since my childhood. I asked her to bring the boy and his family to our house. I decorated the house like a new bride and bought the best food for them. I have been saving for my daughter’s marriage for twenty years. That day my daughter was the happiest I had ever seen her. When the boy’s family started the conversation they brought out a note of demands. They wanted all the material things a family needs. I was calculating and nodding in agreement with every word they said. After all, it’s about the happiness of my daughter. The last point was that they did not want me to introduce myself in front of their relatives and that I should never go to visit my daughter. The moment they said that, my daughter screamed in anger and by surprising all, she slapped the boy. She angrily said, ‘My father can do the thing that no one else can do. Not everyone can clean the messes of others. I am proud of what he does and if you do not leave my house in one minute, I will beat you all.’ She broke the marriage proposal and ended her five-year relationship in one second. From that day on, I knew how fortunate and happy a person I am.’

_Sweeper Monu lal

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Why do you want to take my picture? No one will like me. For everyone I am a sweeper’s daughter. At childhood I used to go to a field near by us, I wanted to play with girls of my age. Their parents never allowed them to play. One day I asked one of the girl why they were not taking me to play. She said, ‘Don’t you know you are a sweeper’s girl?’ I have never gone to that field since then. Do you know what our people do? We clean your dirt, we pure you but for you all, we are the dirtiest people who do not even deserve your two minutes attention. I am sure you are wasting your time, no one is going to like this picture, and by standing outside garbage no one has time to appreciate a sweeper or his girl.

_A sweeper’s girl (that’s what she wanted to use as her name)

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I had never seen any love or care for us in anyone’s eyes. When I work people give me a feeling that I came out from Hell.  We cannot sit anywhere to have a cup of tea. People look at us like they look at dirt. There were days when I hid my tears after being insulted by strangers for no reason.  I was sure there was no love left in this world for poor.

Ten years ago, I was working beside a children school. My job was to clean the drain and repair the site. We blocked the road and it was taking a few days. So the children had to walk to their school. I attentively did my work every day without noticing anyone who could again insult my job. One day a little girl arrived, smile widely at me and said, ‘Why are you so dirty?’ Before I could say anything, her father dragged her away by saying, she should never talk to strangers. I felt horrible, imagined he must be telling her daughter how disgusting workers like me were. And then for a week, she came to me every time with same question, why was I so dirty. I never got chance to speak as her father was always there to drag her away. I could not sleep those nights by thinking about a beautiful reply, ‘why I am dirty’. Poor cannot be clean all the time, we are born in dirt, raise in dirt and die in dirt and no one care when a dirty thing left the world. I could not say any of this to her. I wanted to quickly finish the job and never wanted to see the girl ever again.

At last day when we were finishing the work, it was Ramadan afternoon. I was very tired and down. The school was close and the baby girl did not arrive. I felt relieved, packed everything and was about to leave, suddenly I saw the little girl coming to me by running. She could not breathe properly when she arrived. I was waiting to hear the same question, but she did not say anything except smiling. Then I asked her, where her father is. She showed me a car standing far from us. I waited to hear the same thing. And then she opened her mouth, ‘Uncle, do you like red color?’ By bringing a packet behind from her she handed it in my hand. Her father gave horn and she quickly said, ‘I cannot clean drain, but I can help you to be clean. This shirt is for you, Uncle.’ I could not say a word and she rushed when her father gave repetitive horns. The girl left me on tears. She proved me, human still cares for human. I do not know where she is now, what she might be doing. I pray to God everyday, wherever that little angel is, may God clean all dirts from her life.

_Shohrab

GMB Akash (51)

I never told my children what my job was. I never wanted them to feel ashamed because of me. When my youngest daughter asked me what I did, I used to tell her hesitantly that I was a labourer. Before I went back home every day, I used to take a bath in the public toilets so they did not get any hint of the work I was doing. I wanted to send my daughters to school, to educate them. I wanted them to stand in front of people with dignity. I never wanted anyone to look down upon them like the way everyone did to me. People always humiliated me. I invested every penny of my earnings for my daughters’ education. I never bought a new shirt, instead I used the money for buying books for them. Respect is all I wanted them to earn for me. I was a cleaner. The day before the last date of my daughter’s college admission, I could not manage to get her admission fees. I could not work that day. I was sitting beside the rubbish, trying hard to hide my tears. All my co-workers were looking at me but no one came to speak to me.

I had failed and felt heartbroken. I had no idea how to face my daughter who would ask me about the admission fees once I got back home. I was born poor. I believed nothing good can happen to a poor person. After work all the cleaners came to me, sat beside me and asked if I considered them as brothers. Before I could answer, they each handed me their one day’s income. When I tried to refuse everyone; they confronted me by saying, ‘We will starve today if needed, but our daughter has to go to college.’ I couldn’t reply to them. That day I did not take a shower; I went back to my house like a cleaner. My oldest daughter is going to finish her University very soon. Three of them do not let me go to work anymore. My oldest girl has a part time job and the other three of them do tuition. Oftentimes, my oldest daughter takes me to my working place. She feeds all my co-workers along with me. They laugh and ask her why she feeds them so often. My daughter told them, ‘All of you starved for me that day so I can become what I am today, pray for me that I can feed you all, every day.’ Nowadays I don’t feel like I am a poor man. Whoever has such children, how can he be poor?

_Idris

Bhai street (14)

I lost my mother when I was very young. I always tried to please my stepmother. But for unknown reasons, she could not even tolerate my shadow. She had beaten me a lot as a child. I used to stand silently during the times she had beaten me. I could not cry, because she told me that if I cried, she will throw me out of the house. After silently suffering all of this violent abuse, one day finally, she threw me out my home anyway. I cried loudly all night while standing in front of the closed door, but not even my father came out to take me back. I came to Dhaka from Chadpur. I used to roam around all the streets and sometimes ate from dustbins. Then one day I got this job; a job of a sweeper. But the sad thing is that everyone hates us and no one talks to us. Today I am very happy, brother, because nobody ever took my photo; no one ever wanted to know if I have something to share. When you tell my story to people, please tell them not to hate the sweepers. If we stop cleaning, you will die. We are your servants; we go into your rubbish. By becoming dirty, we cleanse you. Please tell the people to not look at us with hatred.

_Md. Rabbi (18)

 

 

 

 

Born to work

No one has the time to listen to these unfortunate children who are mostly unseen humans. I always wanted to deliver their voices to all of you and show you their hidden pain and anguish. I tell their stories, depict their emotions, and steal their sorrows into my frames…  If any one of you spends even one second in a thought to help them or even to pray for them, this in itself, is the reward of all my hard work.

 If these stories ever touch your hearts, please feel free to share them. Even your help alone can awaken other people to bring their hands to these lost souls…

_Gmb Akash

Sharing 10 real life stories of unfortunate child labourers who were born to work. Feel your heart melt…

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

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No, I don’t go to school nowadays. I had to choose between school and food for feeding my mother and little brothers. My father died last year in this same factory from a heat stroke when he was melting iron in the fire place. In this intolerable heat no one can work if they are not accustomed to it. He was a very strong person and was used to working in the heat. He used to work a lot for us. No one believed he could die here from this heat. After my father’s death I got my father’s job here. I use the same hammer and the same machine but I don’t feel strong like him. I feel very tired, sleepy and hungry. I miss going to school, I miss playing with my friends I miss swimming in the nearby river. My father used to buy me colorful ice cream when we used to feel hot. I miss eating ice cream every minute nowadays when it feels hot like hell here. I have one uncle who buys me ice cream sometimes and helps me in my work when I can’t do anything. I want to become like him. I want to reduce people’s misery because my ice cream uncle always says “we need each other.”

_Rony

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We come to work at 7 am. Because of working continually, we do not usually notice when it becomes dark outside. We work in darkness, under the yellow lightbulb. Sunlight does not enter our factory. Sometimes when the electricity goes out, we can go outside, but now we do not like to play anymore. We feel tired. Telling you the truth, we become very hungry at 3 pm, but rice is expensive. Our income is 1000 taka per month; how can we spend any for rice? We enjoy this free bread at lunch time; when you are hungry everything is delicious. We do not feel full after having it though. But after returning home in the late evening, mother will give us yummy hot rice with mashed potatoes! It’s good for poor people to eat once a day. Please take a piece of bread sir, it is not that bad.

_Ador, Shohag

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My father died in a road accident 6 years ago which left us on the street. For several days we ate nothing. We had no money and no rice at our home. We could not pay the rent of our one room house. My mother then started working in this brick breaking factory after only a few days of my father’s death. She was not even physically and mentally ready after losing my father. Her eyes were still wet for her loving husband. I saw her crying every night holding my younger brother.

We had nobody else. My father and mother had a love marriage so their families did not accept them. They came to Dhaka in order to survive and my father started riding a rickshaw. But after my father died, my mother alone could not earn enough money, even when she worked from early morning to evening. I saw how she suffered every evening with her body pain. I could not stand to see her struggle alone and I started working with my mother when I was only 6 years old.

My mother cried loudly holding me on her chest the first day I went to work beside her. She never wanted to take me with her to work there. My father always had a dream to send me and my younger brother to school.

I could hardly break 30 bricks a day and could only earn 30 taka on the first day. But now I can break up to 125 bricks and earn 125 taka per day. With my income, I am able to continue to pay for my younger brother Rana’s education. He is a very good student and this year he came second in his class.

For the last 6 months I have been working extra hours to earn more money. Two days ago with this money I bought a new bicycle for my brother, so he can go to his new class and tuition with the bicycle. Before that he used to walk a long distance and he got tired. My brother said when he grows up, he will get a job and he will never let me work here anymore.

_Rotna and her mother Rina Akter

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My mother died a week ago. I do not have her photograph. She wanted to take picture many times but for taking picture you need money. If you come here a week ago I could take you home to my mother. She won’t let you come back without having lunch with us. Whenever someone came to visit us she always had given her portion of food. My mother had three pet cats and only me. No one went to her since she was sick. Every day after returning from work my father asked her why she was not dying. I have seen her dying every day since I was a child. I have a step mother and two step sisters. But my mother taught me to love them though they hated us always. The day my mother died I did not cry. I was happy, happy by looking at her face because she was smiling at me. My mother often used to say when I cry she feels ache in her heart, so I cannot cry; I cannot let my mother soul suffer a bit

_Ador (12)

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After my father died in a road accident, it was impossible for our mother to manage three meals a day for us. She started working as a maid but still it was not enough money for us to survive.

One day my mother brought me to this factory for work but the owner did not want to take any more children into his factory. But my mother sat with me the whole day outside of the factory for this job forme and kept requesting the owner for a chance to live. Then he gave me this job six months ago.

In the beginning it was very hard for me to work the whole day with these big machines. Sometimes I had problems with this machine noise and I had problems breathing because of the dust all the time. I also had many accidents. A few days ago my hand went inside the machine and I was seriously injured. Today I am back to work again. I cannot just sit at home, I have to help my mother.

Now I am working as an apprentice. I get three meals a day here for my work. After a few months I will get 1500 taka per month. I am eagerly waiting for that day. I want to help my mother. She works so hard from early morning to late at night for her three children. I want to reduce my mother’s burden of poverty.

_Maruf

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There is a Shakib who is the caption of our cricket team and he is a favourite player. There is another Shakib who is a superstar of our Bangla films. My name is also Shakib but I work in a factory from early morning to late evening to earn 500 taka a week for my family.

I have been working in this factory for the last five months. During this period of time I have been working as a trainee, so I don’t receive any salary. The owner of the factory only gives me 500 taka per month for food to eat three times a day.

I don’t have a father; my mother works as a maid and she cannot run our family alone. That is why my mother sent me to work. When I grow up, I will start my own factory. For that I am working attentively to learn this job

_Shakib 12

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During the winter it’s very difficult for us to work in this underwater stone mine. Its takes an ability to hold one’s breath a very long time to go down into deep cold water and collect these heavy stones and come back. Sometimes it’s harder because the stones are heavier than I am. Oftentimes, I can’t even breathe when I enter the water as it is so cold that it will freeze your body in just a few minutes. But we are accustomed to that now! I don’t know how I have been managing for the last 40 days working in this area.

There are many children who are working in this industry. This is the only job here for poor people like me. Thousands of men women and little children are working day into night.

I never thought I could do this work when I first came with my neighbour. For the first few days, I only collected a meager amount of stones and earned only a little money. They pay for every stone you bring from the deep cold water.

Now I have learned one important thing in my life: “Poverty teaches you so many things and makes you so strong that you can do anything when you have a hungry stomach.”

_ Parvej

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Will you beat me if I tell you the truth? Actually, I am a potato thief. My mother has a high fever so she can’t work. My father had a second marriage and then threw my mother and me away from our house. My father had beaten up my mother so badly that she cannot move properly any more. We somehow managed to sit on the roof of the train and came to Dhaka five days ago. We sleep on the footpath. From morning to afternoon I try to steal potatoes. If I manage to steal some potatoes or vegetables then I can sell them in the bazaar and get 50 taka to buy food for us. From yesterday afternoon till this evening, we haven’t eaten anything. I still cannot steal anything today. I am very hungry

_Mofizul (7)

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I always feel hungry; all the time I only think about some white rice. I only feel less hungry when I am busy at work thinking I have to earn a living and feed four mouths. The last six months my father has not been able to work anymore because he lost his hand while he was working at the mill. He was the only earning person for the four of us.

After that accident I had to leave my school and join this work for feeding myself and my family. My mother wanted to go begging but my father did not allow it. He said “I will die before eating the rice from begging”. I have one sister she feels hungrier than I do nowadays. She always wants to hear stories from me about food. Last night, when she wanted some rice from my mother, my mother replied to her; “Girls should not ask for rice in this way”. I don’t know what the 5-year-old girl understood but she went to sleep eating nothing. She did not ask for food from my mother again.

I understand how hunger feels; I could not do anything without crying silently. The whole night I couldn’t sleep because my stomach was grumbling for some rice too. At dawn for some moments while I fell asleep, I remember I was dreaming about a bowl of rice that I was eating so eagerly. For the last two days our work has been closed so I could not earn anything nor buy any food for my family. Today I am working rapidly. I did not even take a break at lunch time so that I could earn a few more coins to buy more rice and maybe some potatoes. I promised my sister this morning that we will eat a lot of rice tonight. She might be waiting for me the whole day. I am also waiting to finish my work and go home. My father used to say; if you want to eat and earn a living, you have to give your sweat and your blood. He has given a lot of blood for feeding us. Now I am trying to give all my sweat to feed them at least once a day.

_Arif hossain

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My sick mother cannot eat anything. Nothing tastes good to her except beef. She can only eat well if she gets beef in her lunch. I do not have enough money to buy beef for her. It is very costly. But that will not stop me from buying beef for my mother. Every day I get 10 taka for my evening snacks. All children buy bread with that money. But I save my six day snack money by not eating anything. With my savings, on the seventh day, I always buy a half packet of ‘Tehari’ (rice stuffed with beef) for my mother. When she eats it in front of me and says, ‘Babu it’s delicious!’ I feel my stomach is full of all the good food of this world.

_Babu

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Always the same heartless scenario; working children suffering and my own reaction of inner emptiness that freezes my finger preventing contact with the shutter button. But even with all those sorrowful expressions followed by smiles when they give a look, these courageous children push me to overcome anything and then my camera clicks never stop.

– GMB Akash

 

‘Heroes of Life’ – Part IV

‘Heroes of Life’ – are those incredible humans who always find their way to light and love. They had known defeat, suffering, and struggles, yet they possess a beautiful story in their hearts, which is worthy to share with the world.

Sharing 10 real life stories which will definitely melt your heart

Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash

akash (302)

During my whole life I kept my mouth shut to be a good woman. I accepted my fate and all those abuses my entire life but I never could forgive myself. I was ashamed of myself but I couldn’t tell anyone; when at the age of 4 my mother’s own brother used to touch me in bad ways. My mother believed him and even gave me to him to take care of. I couldn’t fight back when my father’s cousin raped me while coming back from school at the age of 5. Crying in pain I told my elder sister. She said, “Do not tell anyone; people will call you a bad girl!” I couldn’t tell my father that the rickshaw puller he reserved for me for my safety to take me to school put his hands in the wrong places when he helped me to get down from the rickshaw. I Told my mother about it and my mother changed the rickshaw driver but she didn’t share it with my father and told me not to share it with anyone. She said, “People will call you bad!” I never could complain to anyone when my school teacher used to touch my back. I could never forget all the abuses that happened to me. I never used to go in front of my uncles when I became a young woman ever again. I was scared of every man in my life.

Every woman dreams about their wedding and their husband. I was also not different from them. But all my dreams were crushed badly as well as all my expectations when on my wedding night I got raped again by my own drunk husband. Even I couldn’t say anything when he brought his friend to my room one night for money. During my pregnancy I used to pray to God, “Please don’t give me a girl because I know she will have to go through all these things I have been tolerating my whole life. But I became the mother of a girl 10 years ago. I never let her hide from my eyes for a minute. I took her everywhere. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut when that night my husband brought a man into my daughter’s room. I started yelling and screaming insanely. All my anger that I had been carrying my whole life came out as my greatest strength. I couldn’t control myself and took the dagger to stab my husband and the man. They both ran away. I complained to the police and for the last year my husband has been in jail. People call me a bad woman. They say that to me because I had my husband put in jail. I don’t feel shame, rather I feel good when they call me a bad woman. It took 32 years to gather the courage to become a bad woman and shout out for my respect and my dignity._Nazma Begum

akash (301)

 

 

Last year I had a strange passenger in my rickshaw who was very worried about something. He was roaming around from one location to another in my rickshaw like a distraught and insane man for almost two hours. I was very afraid to ask him what the problem was that he is going through? I am a poor uneducated man and he was in a very bad mood. Finally, I discovered when he started to talk on his phone that his wife was in very critical condition in the emergency room. She needed the group type A- blood as soon as possible, otherwise it would be very difficult to save her life. After some time when he dropped his phone, with hesitation I softly asked him, “Baba, would you mind if I ask you to take my blood? I tested my blood last year for an illness and I am aware that I have the same blood type A- that you need for your wife. I am a very honest person with no bad habits and I pray 5 times a day. My only problem is that I am a poor man. Do you have problems taking the blood of a poor person and would you let me give my blood to your wife?” That man, whom I was feeling very afraid of asking a minute ago, started sobbing uncontrollably holding me closely. He hugged me so tightly that I could feel how broken he was at that moment.

I gave my blood at the emergency room and it took 2 hours for everything. But during those two hours I felt like a very special person to everyone as well as to myself; something I had never felt before. That man didn’t ask me if he could give me money because he didn’t want to buy my blood; rather he asked me if he could call me ‘Father’. I never felt so precious and valuable before that moment. Giving my blood that day changed my view of seeing my life as a poor inferior man. I don’t feel poor anymore knowing that I have the same blood to save a rich person’s life_ Abdul Razzak

akash (306)

I thought to kill myself several times . But when I think of my two daughters Pia and Ria, I can not do anything! I have to live for my daughters. My wife’s only dream was to educate our daughters. Both of my daughter got mentally ill after they lost their mother! Now if anything happen to me there will be nobody to take care of them!

‌My wife did everything for my parents .She always took good care of them . But after just four months of her death. My parents already insisting me to get married again! how can people forget their loving person so easily! How can they become so selfish! Its only four month! How this is possible to forget my wife and get married again!

‌Everything I do I miss her. She was very fond of me. After back from work to home, she used to be beside me all the time. She was very caring and supporting. She liked to cook food for Me and always sits beside me until I finished my food properly.

‌But my wife died during our 3rd child delivery time at hospital. During the delivery my wife parvin died but our son survived. When she died I was running here and there for searching blood. I even can not talk to her or see her before she has died. How unfortunate I am.

‌I am really unfortunate or may be I did something wrong in my life. After two months of my wife died my little son Parvej had died. We tried with our everything but could not safe him.

‌Last four month I am mentally sick but keep working for my daughter’s future. I search for my wife and son’s face everywhere. I try to get my Son’s smell every where! I cant forget his face for a second! Every night I wake up to check if my son and wife are sleeping beside me ! Then after few second Realise My son is no more! Then whole night I can not sleep anymore!

‌Every day after my morning prayers I pray to God “ Allah please never takeaway anybody’s son and wife before them. Its so lonely to live without people you love most” _ Pintu

akash (303)

We five sisters are the heart of our father. I am the third child of my father and he thought I was very useless. But I know he loves me the most because I am very fond of him. After marrying off my two elder sisters, my father only had me to rely upon for keeping his money safe, preparing betel leaf for him, giving him the towel when he goes to the shower and every other household chore. My other two sisters were very young. My father used to search for me by calling out, “Where is my tail?” This is because he thought he is the ‘body’ and I was the unbreakable useless part of him, ‘the tail’.

But I had to leave my ‘body’ one day. That day, when I went to Dhaka in search of work and money, leaving ‘my body’, I didn’t cry at all. How could I cry? My responsibility was more important to me than crying.

I remembered that oftentimes in our family home before going to sleep in our room, I used to hear my father telling my mother with his mellow voice, “I wish we had a son then he could earn money for us. I am getting older and sicker day after day. Who will take care of you all?” One night he started crying loudly and said, “My daughters have become my pain and my main burden now. How will I arrange marriages for all of them? I am a poor farmer.” That night I cried the whole night; the whole night I could not sleep. I promised myself that I will take all the responsibilities of my family. I promised I will never get married before I arrange marriages for my sisters and give a better life to my parents.

I started working at Dhaka in a factory and sent money to my father every month for my family and tried to save some money. During those years my father tried to marry me off. He used to make up various issues to call me home. Every time before going home I used to shave my head so that the groom would not like me.

I left Dhaka after 3 years and bought three milking cows with baby calves and started farming at our house. In our village no girls herded cows or goats. Everyone started talking nonsense about me but I didn’t listen to anyone. Why should I stop? I promised myself that I will prove to my father that if you give opportunities and inspiration to a daughter, she can do anything that a son can do.
In the next four years from the six cows we then had 14 cows and 4 calves. I sell milk every day and cows every year during Eid season. My two younger sisters started working with me. On my farm now 3 other girls are also working from our village.

I built a new house for my parents. I took my mother to Dhaka for her eye operation.

My father is very proud of me nowadays. He always keeps telling everybody of our village “daughters are blessings. I am fortunate I have daughters. They are mothers in your old age. If you believe in your daughters, they can do anything. You don’t always need sons for being proud and privileged but you do need a daughter like my Rotna .”- Rotna

akash (1)

My husband left me on a stormy night when my five-year-old autistic daughter was fighting for her life.Several times she was in pain asking, “Ma, can you do something? Ma, take away my pains.” I couldn’t do anything. I was crying loudly sitting beside her and asking my husband to please do something. My husband said he was going to bring medicine. My younger daughter started crying to go with him. He didn’t take her. He said he was coming back soon. We were waiting for him the whole night but he never returned again. I know why he left us. He couldn’t take this poverty and our sick daughters anymore. He always wanted a boy. He got lost because he wanted to. After that everybody started looking at me like the fault was mine. People were bad-mouthing me. This and the loneliness and guilt were all drowning me. I couldn’t take anything anymore either. I decided to commit suicide. That afternoon when everyone was working outside in the field I put a noose around my neck, hung it on the fan and swallowed a full packet of my daughter’s sleeping pills. I could not think of anything but to kill myself. I don’t remember how long it took me to pass out, but I do remember those last moments of my consciousness. My life was flashing before my eyes, and I started imagining he returned home bringing medicine for our sick daughter at my wake.

Suddenly the thought hit me; my autistic daughter! What will my daughters do? How will they survive without me in this cruel world? It was at that moment I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave this world like this; I couldn’t leave them like their father left us. I thought this would forever be the story of a defeated mother and a helpless woman’s life, nothing more. At that time, I started struggling to get the noose off, but by then I had lost all control. I woke up in a central hospital the next day. My neighbor said he found me senseless on my floor and I am lucky that the rope tore by itself. I really felt lucky to be alive for the first time in my life holding my daughters on my chest tightly. I do believe that God has given me a second chance do something good.

After that day I never thought about needing a man, a husband in order to survive and to take care of us. My failure became my greatest weapon after that incident. My failure allowed me to change my life and focus on the good. Now I work the whole day in the field and then at night I cook in a hotel. I take care of 3 other old women who are not blood-related but connected by fate. They were also abandoned by their families and live with me and my daughters now. My one daughter is now 8 and the other is 5 years old and goes to school. Every night 8-10 child workers who work with me in the field and who call me ‘Ma’ come to eat dinner with us with what I brought (leftover) from the restaurant where I cook.

Every person has a story behind their changing but not everyone’s story is beautiful. Mine is ugly but I believe everything happens for something good. He wanted to get lost. I let him. I have no complaints so I Don’t search for his address anymore._Asma Begum

akash (26)

The first time my parents went with a marriage proposal to the home of my future wife, she refused our proposal after she learned that my name is Kala Chan (black moon). My mother liked her so much that I had to go myself to the bride’s home straightway to prove that I am not as black as indicated by my name.

When, I went to their home for our first meeting, she started asking me many questions. How many trees did we have at our home? Would I plant two or three trees every year in our village? Would I take her to the river for swimming every day? Would I feed poor hungry people if she wants to feed them every day? All these were her conditions to marry her.
I was just astonished and simply looked at her. She was so beautiful that I could not utter a single word and I just nodded my head.

One night while we were coming back from an invitation from another village, three bad men stopped us and took all of our money and all of the jewelry she was wearing. But suddenly when one of them grabbed my shirt to search for money, my wife became so angry that she started slapping that man and started shouting, “Why are you touching my husband? How dare you? I gave you everything! Why are you humiliating my husband?”

Seeing the situation, one of the men became very angry and lifted up his lamp to the face of my wife. Suddenly his anger melted like ice. He asked, “Are you the woman of the Mia Bari who feeds all the beggars? I went several times with my mother to eat from your house.”

They returned everything and gave us protection until we arrived home.

‌For the last 80 years we have been planting trees in our village and for the last 80 years she has been feeding poor people every single day. Furthermore, for the last 80 years we were never separated even for one day. She became my everything. Every day I fall for her beauty. I fall for her positivity and her goodness. These 80 years of life have been far more beautiful than I expected._ kala Chan (100)

 

akash (73)

During our whole marriage, we always wanted a boy. We have three daughters. We gave up hope for a son or for any other children because of our age. But in our old age God give us a son as a gift. I was very ashamed and at the same time very happy when he was born. His sisters gave him his name “Rajkumar” because of his beauty. He is very much younger compared to my age. People used to make fun of me when I used to take him with me to the market calling out, “Why do you bring your grandson with you?” He became my cane in my old age. He was everywhere helping me with my work. I used to look at him surprisingly and used to pray for him to God to please protect him from bad eyes.

He wanted to go to Dhaka to work four years with his friends. I was not agreeing with my wife. I asked her why he needs to go to Dhaka to work when we have everything! But his mother gave the permission and that permission brought tragedy into our lives.

When he called me ‘abba’(father) when returning home after only one year, I couldn’t recognize my ‘Prince’. I was astonished as if looking at a stranger. He was looking very ill and unhealthy! I started crying holding him and yelling to my wife that I don’t need money. I will not let him work anymore.

Like thousands of uneducated parents, I also knew almost nothing about drug use, needles, phensedyl, a codeine medicine, nor addiction. I realized the truth when he started stealing and selling everything we have. He started stealing from our neighbors and everywhere. I thought marrying him off would make everything normal. But nothing worked. We lost our respect, our peace, and our wealth. We lost everything for him. We couldn’t sleep at night. One night he hit me and hit his mother to take money. He was out of control for everything. I tried to control him with my love and anger. But there’s no such thing as control when it comes to addiction. And it takes only one person’s addiction to destroy a whole family. We became more and more worried because he was dying every day. After three years of staying in the village he was just getting worse and he also became the father of a newborn son.

In the middle of one night last year he came into my room. I was very scared seeing him in my room. But in a very mild voice, holding my hand he said; “Abba, please help me; please save my life. My newborn son called me ‘abba’ tonight for the first time.” When my son looks at me he doesn’t see a junkie, he sees his father,He holds my fingers tightly and pleads, “Abba, I want to live!”

‌‘Robi’, my cow, is like another son to me. He has been helping with my farming for the last 4 years. I never wanted to sell him. I don’t know how I will sell this “second son” for saving the life of my other son. I Have not eaten anything since yesterday morning. Whenever I think about selling Robi, I can’t hold back my tears! But I have no other option to save my ill child. I have nothing left for my son’s treatments anymore. I came here to sell my last bit of wealth to continue my son’s treatments. And I want to make it possible for him to be with me during the next Eid Celebration and not in his grave. I want to bring him back from death. I can’t let my child die in front of my eyes! _Fotik Bepari

akash (242)

No one thought my daughter could survive. I conceived after ten years of our marriage. When my daughter was born three months earlier than my delivery date, she was very premature. Everyone wanted to take her from me in the village. They told me that I should not get attached to my baby. They warned me that it will cause me severe heartbreak. I screamed at my people and my husband asked them to leave us alone. He told me that he would take us anywhere to save our child. I know from my heart that I could never lose her. No one knew that I got her in my dream; she was inside of me many years ago even before she existed. She was not new to me. I saw her face and felt I knew my child; there can be no other face but her’s. We arrived in the city. For six months my husband and I did not sleep. We did not close our eyes. My daughter was not able to breathe properly and I kept her in my lap all night long. My husband sold his rickshaw for us. Whenever her condition got worse, I held my baby to my chest and whispered in her ears not to leave me. I told her how many years I waited for her. I told her how much we loved her, how much we needed her in our lives. My husband was always silent. But he looked at her wide face and called her Moon. I told him it’s a girl so it’s better to call her Moonlight. And our love survived. Now my daughter is five years old. I can remember how I prayed to God to let my child stay with me and to take away everything else I had. I have got my daughter; her smile is enough to keep my world alive.

– Asma with her daughter Chadni (5)

akash (304)

No, no, I am not an angry person and I was never an angry man in my entire life. I was a very romantic husband to my wife as she was very caring to me. But you know, three years ago a little mistake made me unpredictably angry which took 30 years of our married life away from me. That day for a silly reason, I became angry with my wife and had a big fight with her. That anger and that fight changed my life from Heaven to Hell. That day I shouted in anger ‘divorce’ to her three times and we got divorced because of my anger and one silly word. My wife cried silently and said nothing to me.

That night she left our house silently without my knowing it so I could not stop her. How can one word destroy my 30 years of a love life? My 30 years of family life? I don’t understand how a husband could become suddenly an unknown person to his wife for a silly word? She left me taking my sons and went to our daughter’s house in Dhaka and started working in a factory. I was so helpless and confused after that incident, I didn’t understand what to do! I tried to contact her but failed and she never contacted me. I used to call my daughter every day to learn news about her, but she never wanted to talk to me. I missed her and couldn’t stop myself from going to Dhaka after 2 years in order to meet her. But she wouldn’t let me enter into my daughter’s house. She threatened my daughter and told her that if I enter her house she will leave the house. I stayed with my nephew and continued to try to manage the situation. I used to stand in front of her workplace every morning when she came to work till evening when she left. After one year of waiting in the gate of her workplace finally I could manage to talk with her. I took her back to my home last month and we remarried. Now our house became Heaven again. My village people make fun of us calling us ‘Laila Mojnu’. I laugh. I don’t get angry at them anymore because I promised my wife that I will never get angry in my life ever again_ Kuddus Mia

akash (305)

The day when I first broke her marriage proposal, she had come to me with two sweets in a plastic bag. She was only 12 years old so I had to break her marriage proposal as my responsibility.

But I never knew my responsibility would ever become my only duty for the next 10 years. That one sweet gesture made me do that. I fell in love with her. Tirelessly I have completed my duty to break her marriage proposal. Her father was a land owner and I was an orphan with a small paternal house on an abandoned land. But seeing me determined and doing my job with patience for a decade, my father-in-law agreed to let her marry me. I am not sorry because I rendered my father-in-law helpless in dealing with his daughter’s desire; I am not at all. I learned from one of my friends that in love, everything is fair!

I was workless when I married my princess. But it was always very hard for me to go away from her to work. It was easier for me to be hungry than to leave her alone. But I had to make the hard decision to come here to work for us. I just never could see her living in hardship. Every time I took farewell from her for going somewhere, I used to return home many times, changing the ticket’s date on the late night. Several nights I bought tickets to go for work but at the last moment I changed the ticket. It was always hard to go away from her. Returning home from the middle of the road was a very normal scene for me and to always find her waiting for me with warm rice because she also knew that I Could not go anywhere leaving her alone. It’s kind of impossible to make you understand that tender love I feel inside in my heart.

It is very hard to live without her. I feel sick and breathless when she is not in front of me. Life is difficult but God is kind enough that he gave me the chance to take her with me to work. I brought her here with me facing a lot of hardship. We have been working here for the last 5 years; we carry stones.

It will sound funny but it’s true. When she stays close to me I can work double and earn double. I feel stronger, alive and energetic when she is with me. When I see a single smile on her face everything seems okay. For the last year we have been selling eggs after work in the evening for a little extra money.

I am waiting for her arrival from our village every day now. She went there last month to prepare rooms for 5 families. Those families lost their houses and everything in the river erosion last year and took shelter in our place. Her parents are among them and are now living in our small hut. So we were planning to make rooms for them with our savings and last year we have been gathering money for making shelter for all of them. This whole month I am feeling lifeless without her but happy for our good deeds. Everyone used to say, “Love runs through the windows in poverty, but I think, “if the love is real than poverty runs through the windows!’’_ Mokter Ali

 

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